Country Music Names: They ain’t what they used to be!

In her never-ending search for interesting names, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel tuned into the Country Music Awards  and reports here on what she uncovered.

If you ask me, I’ll insist I don’t like country music.

Except that you’ll find Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline and Emmylou Harris on my iPod. 

Clearly, I’m in denial.  When the Academy of Country Music presented their awards earlier this month, I tuned in.  Sure enough, there was an entire category of names I’d overlooked.

There are some great choices in Nashville’s past: legends like Loretta, Dolly, Merle, and Hank.  But the current crop of recording artists wears names that are just a little bit country.  They’re equally stylish in suburban New Jersey or rural Tennessee.


BentleyHis rise has been attributed to MTV’s Teen Mom and the pricey ride, but country star Dierks Bentley gives it a different spin.

Blake – As in singer Blake Shelton.  I’m fascinated by his middle: Tollison.

Coy – You might remember the name from the Dukes of Hazzard, but today he’s worn by a member of the successful Zac Brown Band.

Darius – The former frontman of Hootie & the Blowfish has transitioned to a successful country music career.

Easton  – The newcomer’s surname, Corbin, might work, too.

JacksonThere’s the Johnny Cash song, and also hitmaker Alan Jackson.

Kiefer – Husband and wife duo Kiefer and Shawna Thompson form Thompson Square.  Proof that the name doesn’t have to pair with the surname Sutherland.Reid – Along with siblings Kimberly and Neil, Reid is a member of The Band Perry.

Rory – Husband and wife duo Joey + Rory will have you guessing who’s who.  Joey is the missus.

TraceLouisiana’s Trace Adkins, born Tracy, has helped reclaim the name for boys.

Zac – First there was tweenage heartthrob Efron, now there’s much-nominated Zac Brown.  In an age of Max and Gus, why not just Zac, too?


AshtonThe singer’s full name is the unexpected Ashton Delilah Shepherd.

CarrieThe most successful American Idol to date.

GentryTroy Gentry is one-half of duo Montgomery Gentry.  The surname could appeal to parents who love Jennifer and Genevieve, but want something a little bit different.

MartinaMartina McBride’s long career has yet to boost her saintly given name.

Miranda – The Nashville Star alum Miranda Lambert puts a different spin on her literary appellation.

Paisley Brad is solidly in dad name territory, but this singer’s surname is catching on for girls.

Reba – A choice from the 1920s and 30s, now almost owned by Reba McEntire.  It could make an unexpected short form for Rebecca.

SunnyTexas native Sunny Sweeney shares her name with Adam Sandler’s younger daughter.

Susie – From the duo The JaneDear Girls.

Which names have I overlooked?  And would you choose a baby name from the Billboard Country charts

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27 Responses to “Country Music Names: They ain’t what they used to be!”

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martina Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 3:36 am

Winona (Judd)

Shania (Twain)

Faith (Hill)

Wyatt (Earp)

Montgomery (fromthe duo)

Rich ( John Rich)

Dixie (Chicks)

Patsy (Cline)

Randy (Travis)

Reesie (Palmer)

Winter Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 6:29 am

Great blog, thanks! I’m drawn to these names, which surprises me.

Friendly, approachable, boyish nns seem to be pretty common for country stars like Billy (Currington), Brad (Paisley), Eli (Young), Johnny (Cash), Kenny (Chesney), Randy (Travis), Zac (Brown).

Some other top country singer names-

Byrd (Tracy)
Chesney (Kenny)
Currington (Billy)
Garth (Brooks)
McGraw (Tim)
Perry (The Band)
Raitt (Bonnie)
Swift (Taylor)
Twain (Shania)
Travis (Tritt, Randy)

Lola Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 10:14 am

Darius has long been a favorite. It’s not uncommon enough for my otherr half, though. So I’ll never get to use it. I wish I knew someone who would, or did! 🙂

The girls are less inspiring to me, Susie, as a nickname is the only one I’d even remotely consider. I guess Taylor’s seen her heyday already! (Josie *loves* Taylor Swift). Me, I’m a huge Kenny Chesney fan, but would NOT use his name for my kids! 😀

Sarah Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 10:15 am

The popularity info for Coy baffles me. I’ve never known one or even considered it a first name and yet there is it ….

Nicole Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 10:25 am

Paisley was on my long list for a while, then it started popping up as a country girls name and I have since been less in love with it. But I am rediscovering Loretta as a fun name that seems less country now.. Funny how name perceptions change over time

Names4Real Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 11:02 am

I forgot about Dierks Bentley. I predict Bentley is going to have a big jump this year (maybe next) on the Social Security List because I see baby Bentley’s all the time. And I’ve seen it on baby girls too, sadly sometimes spelled Bentleigh.

Johnny Cash has to be behind some of those baby boys named Cash.

I would add Chesney to the list. I have seen several baby girls named Chesney.

Dixie is gaining popularity (it charted for the first time in decades in 2007) so some of those parents may have been inspired by the Dixie Chicks, although Dixie has other associations too.

I love Reba as a nickname for Rebecca. So much fresher than Becky.

Nice work. I’m not a country fan either, although I do have a few “country” songs on my ipod too. Hmm. Maybe I’m in denial too?

corsue Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 11:44 am

Travis is a double whammy


purpleprose78 Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Fun names from the country music hall of fame

Ferlin Husky – really not use-able, but fun.

Roy Clark – I think Clark could be a good name for a boy.

Ralph Emery – He had a show on TNN when I was growing up. Emery is a good option for a girl or a boy.

Floyd Cramer – Floyd is probably still too Mayberry, but it could come back. (greatest country pianist ever, imo)

Porter Wagoner – Porter fits right in with the occupation as a name trend.

Webb Pierce – Both names would be great for a boy.

Dolly Parton – I love her so much. Dolly could be a great nick name for something longer.

Waylon Jennings – He had a son named Shooter with his wife Jesse Colter (great voice). Waylon still has that rebel country boy vibe which I think is great.

Buck Owens – I had a great grandfather Buck. Buck and Buster would make a great nickname sib set.

Kitty Wells – There are lots of Kates and Katies out there. Why aren’t there more Kittys?

Minnie Pearl – I instantly want to say “Hooowdy.” Minnie is a name waiting to happen again and Pearl would be a great middle name with almost anything.

Chet Atkins – I think it would be awesome to meet a two-year old Chet. (Short for Chester, maybe?)

Patsy Cline/Patsy Montana – I think Patsy can stand alone. It doesn’t need to be short for the dated Patricia.

Anyway, that is my just for fun comment.

Abby@AppMtn Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 2:07 pm

@purplerose78 – I saw Ferlin, too – totally made me smile. I agree that we need more Kittys and Minnies and Chets, too!

@corsue – Very true!

@Names4Real – After I spent a few hours watching YouTube videos, I was amazed at how many songs I really, genuinely liked – especially from the brand new artists I didn’t recognize at all during the awards show.

@Sarah – I know someone with an Uncle Coy. It makes me think of shy, ornamental fish. And yet, he is definitely out there.

Sarah Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

@Abby Koi = undiscovered alternative to Kai? Hopefully not, but stranger things have happened.

Nicole Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I love these names! Great job.

Rachaol Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I knew a Gentry in middle school in the 80’s and never met another. It definitely works on a pretty little girl from the South.

Andrea Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 8:00 pm

There is a teenager named Matraca in one of the high schools here who says she was named after a country singer called Matraca Berg who was popular in the mid 1990s.

I’ve never seen a Reba, but I have seen a Fancy, currently a middle school student. She was probably named after Reba’s hit song.

Shania in honor of Shania Twain was also quite a popular name for little girls here in the late 1990s, judging from the honor rolls I see for middle and high schools.

The male country singer list sounds unremarkable to me. Jackson and Travis are pretty standard boy names and Trace is not unheard of. I’ve only seen Coy a handful of times but I have seen it. Country music is fairly popular here and this is also the land of ranches and rodeos.

theroadtohere Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 11:19 pm

@Martina – Just wanted to correct the spelling for Rissi (Reese-y)Palmer’s name. Also cool to note, she’s expecting a baby girl in two months whom she plans to name Grace. She has a blog:

My favorite country names are Sara(h) (Evans/Buxton) and Josh (Gracin/Turner/Thompson).

Jenny Says:

April 11th, 2011 at 11:53 pm

‘Fancy’ (the song) has always creeped me out. The name could have been a great nickname for Frances but for all those prostitution associations. I blame Reba.

Elle Says:

April 12th, 2011 at 12:44 am

How about Dale Evans?

I just looked her up and discovered her real name was Frances Octavia Smith! Crazy! Well she was born Lucille Wood Smith and her name was changed in infancy to Frances Octavia. Very interesting!

Jen Says:

April 12th, 2011 at 1:43 am

From the Texas Country Charts:
Eli (Eli Young Band)
Rhyder (Brandon Rhyder)
Bleu (Blue Edmondson)
Landon (80 Proof Band, Landon Hill. Also found in that band: Caleb)
Hayden (McMullin– from the band JB and the Moonshine. Also found in that band: Gabriel)
Clayton (Landau, of the band Six Market Blvd.)

Charla (Charla Corn, the token female of that group)

Another name that crops up here and there–
Jaron (Jaron and the Long Road to Love, Jaron Bell)

Andrea Says:

April 12th, 2011 at 8:26 am

I guess I’ve always seen Fancy as a song about empowerment in some ways. The girl grows up impoverished, has a mother who tries to turn her out to pay the bills, but ends up a rich courtesan hobnobbing with royalty through guts and determination. In the video she uses her money to set up a shelter for girls like her. She’s actually inspired by the name to make herself something better. I don’t know that I’d endorse using the name, but it hasn’t stopped the real life Fancy from consistently making the straight A honor roll.

Andrea Says:

April 12th, 2011 at 8:37 am

As far as other country names, there’s also June, as in June Carter Cash, which I’ve seen a bit more often in birth announcements, probably in her honor. I’m waiting for a set of twins named Johnny and June.

Barbara Mandrell’s younger sisters are Louise and Irlene Mandrell. Irlene always struck me as a quintessentially rural country name.

“Jolene” is a classic country song. Also “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” and “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille.” I don’t know that any of the women in the songs are great role models.

SHeDAISY is a country act with three sisters all born in the early to mid 1970s: Kristyn, Kelsi, and Kassidy Osborn.

theroadtohere Says:

April 12th, 2011 at 1:33 pm

To add to Andrea’s mention of the SHeDAISY girls, they are Kristyn Robyn, Kelsi Marie, and Kassidy Lorraine. They also have two brothers, Cade and Clayton, and a younger sister, Karli Anna. Kelsi has identical twin girls, Adyson Amilia and Savannah Marie. And Karli delivered a baby boy last week named Asher.

But I think one of the countriest baby names of recent years is Daisy Pearl, daughter of Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman and her husband. And she’s just as precious as her name. 🙂

Taqah Says:

April 13th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Gentry?! This name could only appeal to parents if they are daft. No. no no. I actually met someone who had called their child Gentry and my friend and I laughed all the way home. We kept wondering what had been running through the parents’ minds. “Well I’d like something classy and old school but Aristocracy is shooting too high?” No, Gentry cannot be an option for Jennifer or
Genevieve please do not do this to your child.

Lucky*Clover Says:

April 13th, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Love this blog! A classmate of mine has a son named Gentry, I always thought it was kind of an odd choice but not too crazy. I also know a little girl named Paisley, very cute but almost too cutesy in my opinion. Sawyer is a name that I’m seeing more and more of, Sawyer Brown is a band that may have highlighted the name a bit. Are the Everly Brothers a country band? I’ve been hearing the name Everly for girls lately, though I’m not liking the name I must say.

Andrea Says:

April 13th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I’ve seen Gentry and Paisley on school rolls a couple of times as well. It would be in honor of Montgomery Gentry, not of aristocracy.

taqah Says:

April 16th, 2011 at 7:40 am

I would assume that Gentry was not in honor of the British class system; but, well, it has that meaning. If you call your child Violet in honor of violet oakley, people will still associate the name with the flower, so too with gentry.

Sunday Summary: 4/17/11 | Appellation Mountain Says:

April 17th, 2011 at 6:01 pm

[…] week’s Nameberry post was all about Country Music.  I’m still in love with Coy.  We’re going back to […]

Angela Says:

May 22nd, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Some Australian Country Music Artists

Slim Dusty – Born Gordon David Kirkpatrick

Shorty Ranger – Born Edwin Haberfield

Keith Urban – Need I say anything more? Nicole Kidman, Sunday Rose and Faith Margaret.

Steve Passfield – Handpicked Band

Amos Morris – Young artist sounds like Slim Dusty.

Troy Kemp – Rising artist.

bbeth47 Says:

April 30th, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Brantley (gilbert)

Brantley is becoming extremely popular instead of using Bentley.

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